Sunday, 19 February 2017

That Special Business of Writing - Guest Post Simon Whaley


My guest today is Simon Whaley. I've known Simon for a few years now via social media and his articles in Writing Magazine are the ones I turn to first. Simon is also a short story writer, tutor and a terrific photographer. One thing about Simon is he's never been too busy to answer any questions I've had regarding the business of writing. Likewise, I've always been very happy to contribute to his articles when asked which is why I'm pleased he's brought out a new book on this very subject. 

I'll let Simon tell you about 'The Business of Writing' himself!

Writers are special. Well, the ones I know are. Because whenever you ask for help they will always provide it, if they can.

It’s something I learned as a budding writer in my early teens (gosh, we’re talking more than three decades now). At the time, I wrote to several famous writers (Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bleasdale, John Sullivan, and David Crofts) asking for advice. And guess what? Every single one of them wrote back. (I still have the letters.)

Some of the advice was general. John Sullivan suggested that as I was 14, there was no need to panic just yet. I had plenty of time to experience life, because that’s what writers draw upon. Alan Bleasdale hinted that other careers were far easier and more rewarding financially. He based his argument on the assumption that it takes seven years to become a brain surgeon, and therefore it was probably quicker, and easier, to become a brain surgeon than a published writer. Looking back, he was spot on.

Alan Ayckbourn wrote three sides of A4 paper. I’m sure it was a ‘stock’ reply, but the fact that he’d sat down at some point to create a ‘stock’ reply still suggested a keenness to help other writers, even though he was pressed for time.

Perhaps, strangely, even though writers are often competing with one another, we still take pleasure from other writers’ successes, which is why, I think, we’re willing to help out. In particular, when it comes to a competitive market such as writing fiction for the women’s magazines, where we are all in competition with one another, we’ll still offer our thoughts and advice when a fellow womag writer asks for them.

In my Business of Writing column in Writing Magazine, I frequently ask other writers for help. When discussing a topic such as earning money from secondary rights like PLR or ALCS, I think it’s important to get comments from real writers who are out there, doing the job, and dealing with these aspects of the writing life on a daily basis.

Whenever ALCS is mentioned on Facebook groups, someone asks what it’s all about, and then everyone piles in explaining what the writer needs to do to register to get access to this money. This is despite the fact that those helping out may get less money in the future, because the pot of money has to be distributed between a greater number of writers. If you want to know more about ALCS, check out this post on my blog: http://www.thebusinessofwriting.co.uk/up-and-down, or buy a copy of my book ;-)

All writers are busy people. We earn our money by writing, not by helping out. Yet every writer I’ve ever approached for help when writing my column has always kindly done so. (Including Wendy, thank you!)

It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to gather some of my Business of Writing articles together into a book. When writers have helped out like this, I feel their generosity of advice should be available for a lot longer than the month of the issue the article appeared in.

So to all the writers who’ve helped me with my column since it began in 2014, thank you. (And thank you in advance to the writers I’ve yet to knock on their door asking for assistance.)


If you’re looking for advice from fellow writers about how they improve their productivity, determine which rights they sell in their stories, deal with crises of confidence (yes, we all have them), stay within the law of libel, create a business-like workspace, cope with rejection, and much, much more, then do check out my book, The Business of Writing.

And if you’re always looking for hints, tips and advice about the business of being a writer, then please visit my blog: www.thebusinessofwriting.co.uk. It’s free. Because as writers, we know how important it is to help each other.

Thank you!

Simon

Sunday, 12 February 2017

20 Things I Love Best in the World


We're almost at Valentine's Day and, in honour of this time of year, I thought I'd write a post on the twenty things that I love the most. Some of them won't surprise you, but a few might!

1. My family

2. My dog, Bonnie, and my cat, Bob

3. Opening a magazine and seeing a story of mine in there

4. Dancing

5. Singing in my choir

6. People who hold doors open for me (sorry but I'm old-fashioned)

7. Any Greek Island

8. The Lake District

9. Cream cheese and banana sandwiches

10. Red wine

11. Walking by the river

12. Les Miserables

13. Australian Masterchef

14. My electric blanket in winter

15. Jeans

16. Teacakes

17. My friends

18. Books

19. Roses

20. My blog readers for continuing to support me!

And while we're talking of love, I have two valentine stories in this week's People's Friend. It's unusual for this magazine to publish more than one story from a writer, so I'm very honoured. I actually wrote and sent them last year but missed the Valentine boat, so I had to read them again to remember what they were about!



And finally, if you're in the mood for romance, you can find twelve of my published favourites in my short story collection, Room in Your Heart, which (for the price of a small coffee) can be bought here.




Sunday, 5 February 2017

Psychological Thrillers and Me - Guest Post Louise Jensen



I am enormously pleased to have as my guest this week psychological suspense writer, Louise Jensen, whose novels, The Sister and The Gift, have both been number 1 bestsellers and sold for translation in ten different countries. Having just read The Sister, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I couldn't wait to ask her a few questions about her writing.


You’ve written two psychological thrillers, had you written anything before?

I have been writing non-fiction for years for health and wellbeing publications, writing mainly about mindfulness and chronic pain. Writing a novel had always been the dream but time and family meant it was something I kept putting off although looking back I think it was fear that held me back. Beginning something and knowing you need to write 90k words is incredibly daunting.

What made you decide to write a novel?

I lost a great deal of my mobility in my 30’s and with more time on my hands I decided to write a book about mindfulness, which I teach. I went along to a local writing group to find out a little about self-publishing and I was given 3 words and 10 minutes to do a ‘hot pen’ exercise. I wrote the opening to The Sister and for days afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about Grace and Charlie and decided to try and expand my snippet into a short story but I couldn’t stop writing.

Had you always had a burning desire to write in this genre?

I didn’t realise I was a crime writer until I was offered a book deal and my publisher wanted to talk about marketing. I wrote the story I wanted to tell, one I would like to read. One that made me scared, one that moved me to tears. I’m contracted for 2 more thrillers, I’ve recently released The Gift, the second and I’ve had to write knowing it needs to slot into a genre which has been more difficult. Ultimately I love feeling unnerved but I also love the emotion in commercial fiction so I try to blend the two genres.



‘The Gift’ is your latest novel. Can you describe it in one sentence?

Jenna hasn’t been the same since her heart transplant; recognising people she’s never met, discovering secrets she shouldn’t know, seeing a murder that never happened.

Are you a planner or a pantster?

Oh I wish I could plan. Particularly now writing to a deadline. I generally start with an idea and a strong female lead and see where it takes me. Throughout the writing process though I always bear in mind what the character wants and what is stopping her from getting that. This means everything I write stays connected to these points and doesn’t veer too far off track.

What would you say would be your typical writing day?

I catch up on social media when I wake and then after the school run I write until around 12. After lunch I’m not very creative in terms of getting new words down so it’s time for blogging, admin and editing. I try to finish around 4 so I can spend some time with my son.



You’re published with Bookouture. Can you tell me a little about your road to publication?

My road to publication was relatively easy, although I did receive the inevitable rejections every writer has. The Sister wasn’t finished until November and I had a contract by January. That said I’d been very careful in making sure it was absolutely ready. I paid for a professional critique which was enormously helpful and I made some last minute tweaks after receiving my report.

You’ve recently been interviewed by ITV news. Was that scary?

ITV rang me the night before as I’d just reached my second UK no.1 in a year so I didn’t really have time to get nervous, plus, if I’m honest I thought it was a joke and didn’t expect them to turn up. The interviewer was lovely and really put me at ease and it was a great experience for all the family.

Any other novels in the pipeline?

I’m due to release my third psychological thriller with Bookouture at the end of this year so I’m in the infancy stages of writing it. Not quite knowing yet what it will be about but that’s half the fun!

Thanks so much Wendy for inviting me onto your blog.


Find out more about Louise:



Buy Louise's books here:



Louise is a USA Today Bestselling Author, and lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat. 

Louise's first two novels, The Sister and the Gift, were both No.1 Bestsellers, and have been sold for translation to ten countries. The Sister was nominated for The Goodreads Awards Debut of 2016


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Rather Belated Writing Targets 2017


I know it's a bit late in the month but here, as promised, are my 2017 writing goals. Next week, I shall be taking them along with me in my little 'Goals' book, to see if writing chum, Tracy Fells, likes the look of  them. If she doesn't, I won't buy the teacakes.

No more procrastinating then. Let's see what I shall be up to this year. Hopefully I shall:

  • complete at least 50,000 words of my new novel by the end of August, for critique by the RNA New Writers' Scheme reader.

  • write the outline and first chapters to send to my agent before the end of February.

  • write and submit at least two short magazine stories each month.

  • attend the RNA conference in July.

Oh, and there's one more important one... to be brave!

I'm hoping that these are manageable targets but I know how life has a habit of getting in the way and I may have to change some of my expectations. If this happens, I've promised myself I won't stress about it.

Interestingly, I notice that this year's goals are practically the same as last years!

In other news, I have a story in the latest People's Friend Special. The inspiration was the lovely illustration they sent me. I couldn't resist writing it, though it made me a little sad too as it's about a woman in her sixties who is showing signs of dementia.


I hope you'll join me next week as I have a fabulous guest... best selling psychological suspense writer Louise Jensen.


Sunday, 22 January 2017

How to Say Thank You - Guest Post Vivien Hampshire


I first 'met' Vivien when she was a short story writer and we found ourselves sharing the pages of the same magazines. Since then, Viv has branched out into novel writing and her debut romantic novel, How to Win Back Your Husband, was published on Wednesday... hurray!

In celebration of her new book, Vivien has very kindly offered to write a post for me on the best way to say thank you to all the people who help authors along the path to publication.

Over to you, Viv.


HOW TO SAY THANK YOU

When Wendy asked me to appear on her blog, the first thing I said was ‘Thank you.’ Well, you do, don’t you? It’s the polite thing to do.

We all do it, almost automatically, every time someone hands us a gift, holds a door open, or passes the salt. We write thank you letters after Christmas, or make sure our children do, and we can even buy ready-made Thank You cards in the shops, so we don’t have to work out exactly what to say. But there comes a time in a professional writer’s life when we are expected to say thank you in a much more formal and permanent way, and very much in our own words... and that’s the day when we are asked to compile our first acknowledgements page.

After a year of writing my novel, followed by the long and painful process of looking for either an agent or a publisher to take it on, and then weeks of working through edits and changes, it was lovely, when the book was finally ready to meet the world, to be given the chance to say thank you to anyone and everyone who has helped me along the way. No word limit, said my editor. Thank as many people as you like. It’s entirely up to you…

I must admit that visions popped into my head of Oscar winners who stand on stage just a little too long, thanking their producer, their agent, their fellow actors, everyone who voted for them, their parents, their first drama teacher, their taxi driver, the midwife who brought them into the world, their dog… As the list of people nobody has ever heard of gets longer and longer, you can see the audience losing interest as their eyes glaze over and they start to nod off!

So, I needed my list to cover the essential people who really had helped me, without going over the top… and, more importantly, without leaving anyone important out. I thought perhaps a good place to start might be by reading the acknowledgements in other authors’ novels. Not to copy them, obviously, but to get an idea of how many pages they might use up, who they choose to thank, and how.

One of my favourite books in the last couple of years has been I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Now, I knew that was Clare’s first novel, just as How To Win Back Your Husband is mine, so I took a look at her page of thank yous first. And, yes, it was just a single page. But her opening words rang very true: ‘I always used to read the acknowledgements pages of books and wonder how on earth so many people could be involved in the creation of a single piece of work. Now I understand.’

She goes on to thank all the obvious people in the publishing world - her early readers, agent and publishers - before moving on to friends and family, highlighting the fact that they have not only believed in her but supported her and cheered her on ‘from the sidelines’ – what an apt image that is as we writers sit with our heads down writing away like mad while others can only look on and help in simple ways like bringing tea and giving us the time and space we need.

Having listened to Jane Corry give a fascinating talk at a recent RNA meeting, I turned to her book next. In My Husband’s Wife Jane has included two pages of acknowledgements, starting on similar lines to Clare’s but also thanking various people who helped with research - Jane’s book enters the world of prisons and the legal system, with a few medical questions thrown in for good measure. Was there anyone like that who I needed to thank?

And, lastly, I turned to Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Book Shop. It’s the book I’ve just finished reading - and its title sounds a little like mine, don’t you think? But here I drew a blank. Apart from a one-line dedication to her late father, there is no acknowledgements page at all.

So, it really was up to me. I could thank pages and pages of people or nobody at all! I settled for somewhere in between. Of course, I mentioned my writing friends, although not all of them by name. And my editors. And a few ex-colleagues in the children’s centre where I used to work, whose day to day work with toddlers had inspired a few scenes in the book. But I kept my husband until last on the list, just as so many writers seem to do. Without husbands, wives, partners, supportive families at home, how would we ever get around to writing a whole novel and still manage to keep the house clean, the freezer stocked, and put food on the table? I certainly couldn’t have done.

So, when you write your first book, who are you going to thank? Please don’t say the dog!

Vivien Hampshire



HOW TO WIN BACK YOUR HUSBAND
Published by HQ Digital on 18 January 2017

Nicci has made one stupid and seemingly unforgivable mistake and, after eight years together, her husband Mark is divorcing her. Her best friend is determined to help her get over it, start enjoying life again and move on, but Nicci knows getting over Mark just isn't an option - she still loves him and she wants him back! With no clear plan in mind and only thirty days left until the divorce is finalised, the race is on to prove her love, regain his trust and save her marriage, before it's too late. A debut romantic comedy with a sprinkling of winter magic! 

You can buy How to Win Back Your Husband here




Sunday, 15 January 2017

Inspiration from a Lost Garden - Guest Post Merryn Allingham



There is nothing I like better than inviting good friends back onto Wendy's Writing Now - especially when they have a super new book out! Today, that person is the writer, Merryn Allingham. I first met Merryn at a gathering of local RNA members and she soon became a friend whose advice I value. She is a super writer and if you haven't read any of her books, you are definitely missing out.

Today, Merryn is answering my questions about The Buttonmaker's Daughter which is set in Sussex in 1914.

Can you remember where you were or what you were doing when the idea for The
Buttonmaker’s Daughter first came to you? 

I was on a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. Our guide had a fund of anecdotes and one he told was particularly poignant. It concerned the ordinary working men whose labour had created these beautiful gardens - a single image really, that lodged in my mind and set me writing.

The gardens’ heyday was in the late Victorian/Edwardian eras, several owners spending large amounts of time, money and effort in creating a veritable paradise. But in 1914, war came to England and everything changed. One day in the summer of that year, every gardener on the estate downed tools together and walked to Redruth to enlist at the local recruiting centre. Most of the men never returned, perishing in the mud of Flanders. The Day Book that would normally list jobs completed, that day carried only the date, and was never used again.

It was the image of those men, honourable and courageous, walking together to enlist in what they saw as a just cause, that stayed in my mind, and I knew I had to record that moment in a novel.


Can you describe your novel in one sentence?

As war and family conflict threaten the Summerhayes estate, Elizabeth Summer must decide how best to save her family from danger, yet stay with the man she loves.
  
How long did it take to write The Buttonmaker’s Daughter?

I did several months’ research in addition to what I already knew of the period, reading up on the social history of the country house, for instance, the timeline of the First World War, emigration to Canada and so on. Then three to four months writing a first draft, and another three months or so after that redrafting and hopefully refining. Around nine months in all, which is about average for me for a 90,000 word novel. But, of course, I wasn’t finished with the book then. There were agent’s suggestions to consider – whether to adopt or adapt or reject them. Then the editor’s revisions, the copy edits and finally the author alterations which was my very last chance to modify the ms. Giving birth to a book is a lengthy process!

What was your favourite chapter to write?

It’s difficult to choose a particular chapter but if I had to, I’d say the one in which Elizabeth finally takes the action she must, to save her lover and her family. That chapter also sets her on the path to a new future. (I’m saying no more – I don’t want to give the plot away!)

Is the Summerhayes mansion based on a real place?

The gardens of Heligan gave me the inspiration for the novel but the Summerhayes estate is my invention – I actually drew a detailed plan of its various parts. As for the house, Heligan’s mansion was long ago transformed into private apartments and I’ve no idea what the house looks like. In any case, Summerhayes had to be a ‘modern’ mansion because Joshua Summer, a Birmingham manufacturer, is ahead of his time and loves new inventions. And a modern mansion in the early 1900s was an Arts and Crafts house. I’ve put some of the pictures that were important to me on Pinterest.  https://uk.pinterest.com/merrynallingam/the-buttonmakers-daughter/


What attracted you to this period in history?

1914 was a cataclysmic moment for this country and I feel a deep attachment to the world that was lost then. The First World War affected millions of lives across every class and community, with so few understanding the reality of a war they were called to join. A veneer of innocence was lost and Britain was thrown into a century of total change. It could be argued as the most significant moment in our history. Philip Larkin's poem MCMXIV says it all:

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word

Do you see anything of yourself in any of your characters?

I always seem to write feisty heroines, usually young women fighting to gain their independence and the chance to live their lives as they decide. So maybe!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I see a lot of my family, go out with friends for lunch or a film or the theatre. I’m a member of a book club and I enjoy being part of two different writing groups. I go to several dance exercise classes every week. Oh, and I’m learning Russian!

What does your family think of your writing?

My husband is hugely supportive, diligently reading every novel as it’s published and telling me how good it is. My son is proud of me, but doesn’t have time to read books, or so he says, and prefers his entertainment to be visual. My daughter-in-law tries to read them but she is Russian and the language is sometimes a struggle for her. And my daughter likes to hear what’s happening to me writing-wise but tells me she’ll only read my books once I’m no longer here. I’ve never been sure what to make of that!

What suggestions do you have to help a writer write better?
  • Don’t constantly self-censor. Relax and let the words flow. Some of what you write you’ll want to delete, but the rest will be worth keeping. A few sentences will be pure gold.
  • Read as much as you write. And read widely, not just in your genre.
  • Writing can be a lonely business, never more so when rejections start to flow, so you need to keep believing in yourself. If you look at the biographies of many of today’s most popular novelists, they’ve often been writing for years. Wasn’t it Lee Child who said, ‘It took me ten years to be an overnight success.' 

Bio:

Merryn Allingham worked for many years as a university lecturer and between job, family and pets, there was little time to do more than dabble in writing. But when the pressures eased, she grabbed the chance to do something she’d always promised herself – to write a novel. Under the name of Isabelle Goddard, she published six Regency romances, but in 2013 adopted a new writing name and a new genre. The Daisy’s War trilogy, set in India and London during the 1930s and 40s, was the result.
Her latest books explore two pivotal moments in the history of Britain. The Buttonmaker’s Daughter is set in Sussex in the summer of 1914 as the First World War looms ever nearer and its sequel, The Secret of Summerhayes, forty years later in the summer of 1944 when D Day led to eventual victory in the Second World War.

If you would like to keep in touch with Merryn, sign up for her newsletter at www.merrynallingham.com




Sunday, 8 January 2017

Let's Celebrate a New Writing Year!


Hap... Hap... Happy New Year! 

I hope 2017 brings you everything you hope for.

On Wednesday, in time-honoured tradition, writing chum, Tracy Fells, and I got together to set out our writing goals for 2017. As we sat in our favourite cafe with our coffee and teacakes, we found ourselves looking back to the same day one year ago. We remembered how excited we were at having finished our novels and how the talk was all about where we would be in a year's time.  

2016 was to be 'The Year of the Novel' for us both but, as everyone knows, things don't always go to plan. I was incredibly lucky to find an agent fairly quickly but getting a novel ready for publication, in a format that everyone is happy with, hasn't been a simple process. I haven't talked a lot about it recently as things have been a bit up in the air.

Anyway, this leads me on to my targets for 2017 (or rather lack of them).

I will be putting my yearly targets on my blog but not until I've met with my agent in a couple of week's time. They have a new project they want to discuss with me and until that has happened, I can't really plan anything. You'll have to watch this space.

In the meantime, 2017 has started with a bang! I've already had two story sales and, at the time of writing, have five stories on sale in the shops - one in The People's Friend Special, two in Woman's Weekly Fiction Special, and two in Take a Break Fiction Feast (I can't imagine that happening again!). One of the stories was a ghost story but two were a new genre for me - crime mystery.

I was also excited to discover that the People's Friend have made a new audio of one of my stories, Out of the Dark. I loved this one and found it very moving as there is a lot of me in it (I had to hold my husband's hand when the reader got to the tube station scene as it brought back unsettling memories).

You can listen to my story here